Elections should be celebrated as a peaceful and democratic way to change governments, but too often they are flashpoints for violence that actively recruit young people.
But in Ghana, Comfort Glikpo is enlisting young people to make a strong, unifying statement for peace ahead of her country’s November 7 general elections. Her organization, Dels Foundation, organized a Youth for Peace walk to be held this September, where 5,000 people will walk through Accra and call on others to reject involvement in electoral violence.
“We intend to use the occasion to create awareness that Ghanaians are one people with a common destiny, to let the youth know that regardless of political differences or ethnic extraction, tribal or religious attributions, we are still one people,” Glikpo said.
In addition to the peace walk, she said, volunteers from her foundation will be working with youth in communities, homes and schools around the country to spread the message of shunning violence and instead using their influence to promote good governance and build better societies.
“This project is committed to redirecting the youth potential to productive ventures to empower them with knowledge and skills in peacebuilding leadership development, as they are made Ambassadors of Peace,” she said.
Youth violence during elections is caused by several factors, including ethnic and religious differences, extreme poverty, unemployment and incentives such as offers of money, alcohol or drugs, she said. Young people can be redirected through education that creates awareness and empathy for other groups and instills in them the values of good leadership and nonviolence.
To attract participants, Dels Foundation created a registration portal and advertised it across social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. The organization is also directly in contact with schools, places of worship and other institutions to spread the word.
Interested in organizing your own election-related event? Glikpo advises YALI Network members to “get the message where it matters” and try to overcome funding challenges by using social media and other technology to target the grass roots. Know what kind of event you are organizing and who will be participating, and have a plan for finding volunteers and sponsorship.
Because of funding, “it hasn’t been easy putting things together,” she said. But “we won’t give up. We believe it is a worthy cause and we will do our best to ensure that Ghana is peaceful, before, during and after the 2016 elections.”